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Update-Gone Fishing..But the store is in good hands…

[Important!! We are in the finals for 2 categories in the Best of Alameda.  Thanks for voting! And please vote again to get us there!]

So for the next couple of weeks I’m gonna take one of these things where you stop working for a bit…I think they are called vacations? 😉  But the store is in the hands of my lovely employees so everything is (mostly) as usual.  A few notes though:

  1.  Two headed giant for both this weekend and next weekend(Feb 16that and 23rd) will be the always popular Fat Pack War, where each team picks a random pack that matches with a Fat Pack/Bundle and they make their decks out of the two sets of 5 packs they get from that.  This is always big fun! $25 pp, start time to get packs/build decks at 4pm.
  2. No Modern on Tuesday this week.  7pm Modern magic tournament on Tuesdays has been building up very nicely, but with me out of town and our usual judge with other commitments, we don’t have anyone to do the late shift on the store this week (Feb 19th).  We’ll be back to this next week.
  3. Singles buying.  The team will do their best with singles purchasing, but since I’m usually the final word, particularly on big purchases, we’ll be waiting on doing most of those till I get back after the 24th.

My goal is to come back with rested brain and recharged for doing some new stuff at the store.  In the meantime, remember to find fun and friends in every game you play.

Ben

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need Yer Best of Alameda Votes Jan 31st!!

Hey Folks,

We are up for two categories in the Best of Alameda this year.   Under Lifestyles and Families there is Best Children’s Store and Best Place to take the kids.  These things actually mean a lot to us, both to help get business and because everyone likes to know they are appreciated once in a while. 😉  It doesn’t take a lot of votes to make a difference with these things, so if we’ve done well by you, we’d be grateful if you take a couple of minutes to vote.   (I always forget these things, so whoever nominated us, thanks in the dark!)

http://www.alamedamagazine.com/Alameda-Magazine/Best-of-Alameda-Ballot/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ravnica Allegiance Set overview..

Ravnica Allegiance

Ravnica Allegiance is the second set in our (re)return to the planet wide city of Ravnica.  This set brings the other 5 guilds back into the mix, each with their own color combination and special powers. (It also brings back the last five of the fetch lands…special lands that lets you go find one of two paired lands from your deck for the low, low cost of one life point) 

Emergency Powers

Azorius:  Blue and while combine with the Senate of the law.  The Azorius special new mechanic is Addendum.  These are Instants that have a special bonus surprise in the box if you cast them during the time you could cast a sorcery.

Frenzied ArynxThe Gruul (Red & Green) ‘s new mechanic reflects their aggressive ways.  Riot gives you the choice to either bring in a creature in with haste so they can attack right away, or a +1 counter. 

Zegana, Utopian SpeakerSimic (Blue & Green), the clan of growth has traditionally been all about tossing on the counters, and the new Adapt mechanic is all about adding on counters and once in a while throwing in an extra power or two for all creatures with counters on them. 

Imperious OligarchThe Orzov Syndicate (Black & White) brings in Afterlife, a mechanic that brings one (or more) 1/1 flying spirits when the creature dies.  

Rafter Demon

Finally, we have the Mad Clowns of Rakdos (Red & Black).  Their distributingly  named Spectacle.  When these spells are cast in a turn after an opponent has taken damage they get extra abilities.


Guilds of Ravnica Set

Back to the city word of Ravnica, with it’s 10 guilds (pairings of two colors).  This set is all about making the colors work together, so there is a ton of mana fixing, including the return of the shock lands.

Here’s what you need to get a head/catch up to the game.

The following is directly from the Wizards of the Coast description of the mechanics of the new set.

So why is Yugioh Banned at D20 Games, anyway?

I just got an email from someone looking for a place to have his 12 year old son to come and play Yugioh, and I was about to tell him the tale of why it is banned at the store, and why I recommend steering him away from Yugioh when I realized that it’s been a long time since I told the story and it was probably worth putting it where everybody could see.

Yugioh is one of the big collectible card games, and was a pretty big part of the store when I acquired it back in 2011.  We would get 40-60 people coming in on Sundays, and it represented about 1/3 the business of the store.  But I gave it a partial ban in 2012, followed by a complete ban after we had the big break in that almost killed the store.

The day D20 was broken into

So Why Ban Yugioh?

So with all due modesty, I’m a good guy, and have a firm but gentle touch with people, including tweens and teens. (I used to teach Karate to kids.)  I can pull people aside and talk to them about behaviors that are not ok without shaming them or making them feel angry or resentful. And I spent a lot of time getting to know the community, participating and getting to know the individual players.  But our Yugioh days contained 90% of the trouble we had at the store. It seemed any deck or cards left attended would be stolen the moment someone’s back was turned, we had a huge amount of issues with people taking advantage of others in trades, bad language and people getting really angry, sometimes to the point of fights over games.

After the break in, I went to a big conference of game store owners from around the country and was shocked to find out that the problems we had had were present at stores as far away as Philadelphia, and were only with Yugioh.  I spent a long time trying to figure out why this was…it was just a game, after all.  Finally I came to a theory, and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I became convinced it is correct.   There seems to be a fundamental design flaw in the game end’s up not only fostering, but training bad behaviors.  Those have become part of the tone/culture of poor behavior/ethics that riddles the Yugioh community.

Yugioh-Magic “fixed”?:  Yugioh was invented by a guy that was an old Magic player.  He hated the idea of what’s called set rotation. (Basically, only the last couple of years of cards are used in the most common competitive format.)  He wanted all the cards that were created in his game to be used all the time. The problem with that has to do with the nature of collectible card games.  See the cool part of these games is that there are basic rules, but the new cards get to introduce new rules that change the game.  That’s really great, but as you get more and more rules, if you aren’t careful, you get combos of the card that just came out with a card from 5 years ago that becomes powerful enough to break the game.   Games like Magic the Gathering and Pokemon spend a huge amount of time looking out for these kinds of combos, but Yugioh doesn’t do quite as good a job.  Add that by having all the cards available to play with, after a few years the game started to be defined by these game breaking combos.  What it meant was the best decks don’t just win, they utterly crush not so great decks.

Badly training the Young; So here is where things start to go wrong.  Imagine you are a 8 or 9 year-old, taking your first deck to go play with your buddies at school.  You don’t just lose, you get crushed.  You go home to your parents, tears in your eyes from the humiliation.  If your parents have means, they come to a store like we used to be and buy better cards so they don’t have to see that look again.  If not, the kid has several choices.

  • “This game is stupid, I’m not playing it anymore”.  Probably a good choice, but kids aren’t usually wired that way.
  • Trade for better cards.  This seems good on the surface, but the cards they need are worth many, many times what the cards they have are worth.  So they end up learning, at a pretty early age, to take advantage of less knowledgeable players.  This is something we deal with directly in all of the collectible card games, and when a kid gets taken advantage of, they can either decide to talk advantage of the next person or to never make anyone else feel as bad as they do now.  It is one of the fundamental building blocks to becoming an honest person or not.
  • Stealing: See the deck that beat them in the kids backpack….

This isn’t the majority of kids that end up down a bad path, but it is enough that starts to seriously influence the ethics of the community.   There are a couple of additional things about the game that complete the story.

  • Lotto Packs.  All collectible card games have the “oh, what’s in this one” aspect that has been part of collectible cards since baseball cards.  It’s true of Magic, Pokemon, etc. But Yugioh is an extreme with this.  It was well known that of a box of 24 packs had about 8 that were were worth anything at all.  It was totally common to watch people open packs, look for the ultra rare and throw the rest of the pack out if it wasn’t there.  With this level of gambling mentality, it affects how people view the ethics of trading.
  • Turn one win fury:  With all the combos that could win the game running around, it becomes almost a coin flip to see who finds their combo first.  If you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on your deck and your opponent gets his combo out first and locks you down, people tend to get, shall we say, cranky.  This is why we had so many near fights during tournaments.
  • “Dealing” trading cards:  Because the cards that make these auto win combos are so critical in playing, they become fairly valuable.  Add this to the culture of it being ok to take advantage of other people during trades, and you get people that are acting almost like the not so great version of dealers with the valuable cards.
  • Unclear Rules=different kind of players. The unspoken truth of the kids who really learn to play Pokemon and the Magic players is that it tends to attract fairly intelligent people.  Trying to figure out how to make different rules work together is a super interesting and challenging thing to do.  The rules on the Yugioh cards can be so difficult to understand and obscure that instead of people figuring out their own cool things, they hear from someone else how that new cool deck work.  That means that you get a fairly large percentage of the community that plays just for the chance to beat each other, or to try and make money off their wheeling and dealing for cards.   There is often a more aggressive group of players that joins then what you would imagine would be attracted to playing a non gambling card game.

Not all Yugioh Players are bad, but enough: I’m not saying that this affects everyone, or even the majority of players. But it does change the tone of the community, the ethics and how they treat each other.  I believe this enough that even though Yugioh was a full third of my business, I made the decision, as both a store owner and a father to ban the game utterly from the store.  This was not something I did lightly or without a great deal of thought and consideration. Not only no sales, but no Yugioh cards are allowed at the store, and I actively do my best to encourage kids away from playing the game. I’m sorry for the good folks who like the game, but after 5 years, I have never regretted it, and to answer a frequently asked question, will never bring it back to the store.  (I could use my access to sell it online and make a decent profit, but once I believed it was a bad influence, as a dad, I couldn’t do even that.)

But my kid wants to play Yugioh: For parents who’s kids (frequently Pokemon players who are looking to move on) are getting interested in Pokemon, I would strongly suggest gentle urging towards Magic instead. (You can bring them in and I’ll provide parental support.  I may be the Peanuts “wah, wah” parents to my own kids, but for other kids, I’m the guy behind the counter at D20.  I can use that bully pulpit to help with this so they don’t just end up seeing it as forbidden fruit.)   Magic was the first of the games, and has the good stuff of the collectible card games, (social interaction, really using your brain, etc.) without that level of negative side effects. Probably the best feature is they can do what is called limited play. (Basically show up and do events where they play with the cards from the packs they get as part of the event.  Everyone starts even, and it is a chance for them to play with the packs they collect.  There are even team events that can be played with a buddy or even parent.)  You still want to make sure they trade fair, and are get interested in the playing, not just opening packs, but it’s a good choice I have no problem recommending.  Tell you the truth, I hesitated talking publicly about my observations about Yugioh, because I didn’t want that to get generalized unfairly to the rest of the collectible card games.

Found Dad (& Grandpa) hiding at a garage sale…the power of old games-a Father’s day story

I didn’t expect it when I opened the box.  The intense rush of feelings that flooded over me as I not just looked at, but felt the feeling in the cards.  I’ve opened a ton of these, old games acquired in garage sales, previous loved goodies waiting to find new homes. One of the main reasons I love the store is getting a chance to find ways to get families to spend more time with each other, using the games an excuse to connect. I know this, I do it all the time.  But knowing it in your head is one thing….feeling it in your heart is something else.  I found two games yesterday, one of which turned out to have my Dad inside, the other had my grandfather.

I had a hint at how important games could be last Halloween, that I wrote about once before.  It was this tall dad (looked like a professional sports player guy) and his probably 9 year old daughter.  They came in to trick or treat, but both of them lit up like fireflies when they saw what kind of store they had walked into.  She moved from game to game with a look that, when matched with her dad’s, immediately revealed the image of days spent, sprawled out on a floor together, playing games.  For them, they looked at the games, and what they saw wasn’t fun, it was love.  Nothing more, nothing less.  I still think about them once in a while and it’s hard not to feel my heart fill too. .

The games I picked up yesterday were Mille Borne and Chinese Checkers.   This particular copy of Mille Borne was from 1971.  It could have been the copy I played a thousand times with my Dad when I was a kid, and as I felt the worn softness of the cards, it was not a memory as much as an emotional evocation that hit me so hard.    Sounds or smells can have the same effect, but I didn’t expect it from the game. My dad was a big game player, but hadn’t picked up so well that it’s not only ok for parents to lose to their kids, but that it is actually an kind of an art. But Milles Borne had this great blend of strategy and chance that evened things out. Somehow there were a ton of life lessons in that game.  Do you speed like crazy for the finish line, getting less points but going for the quick win, Putting down your super protections in advance, or holding on, waiting for the whoo  hoo moment of a Coup-fourré.  I think that’s the moment I remember most….it was satisfying as heck to beat my dad, both cause it felt good and because even then I knew that it made him proud when I could beat him.    But it reminded me in a very visceral way why playing games with your kids isn’t a extra thing to do if you have time…but something that will live with them forever. 

 Chinese Checkers is my grandfather…or at least brings him back to life for me whenever I see a set, particularly an old set.   The family legend is that he brought Chinese Checkers into the country.  I did a bunch of research and their may be some truth to it.  He was an entrepreneurial guy. An immigrant who got a job as a buyer at the May Company (think early Macy’s) based on completely made up experience.  The story of how he brought Chinese Checkers to Leo Pressman, founder of Pressman Toys (and the lawsuit for a whopping $5000 that let him open a furniture store in Denver), I’ll save for another day.

 

 

So I’m addicted to phones too–An(other) open letter to D20 Kids & Parents

(Kids, don’t read this*.  It talks about some things being done in the mobile industry that are designed to manipulate people into doing things for the sake of advertising and in app purchases that are actually leading to medical level changes in the way our brains work, leading to some pretty bad stuff.)

There is an elephant in the room, and it is hard to get his attention because he has his trunk stuck in his smartphone.  There are a whole bunch of really smart people working really hard to use every psychological trick they can to get me to spend as much time as possible on our cell phones.

And they are winning.

Fun that makes me feel bad. I didn’t like it before when it just made me feel bad. And I now like it way less that I’ve come to understand it is affecting my sleep patterns,  how well I think, and acting like a drug, trading little moments of feeling good but leaving me sense of feeling depressed and out of control.  So I guess I fit into the classic definition of being addicted, knowing that something isn’t good for you, not wanting to do it, and doing it anyway.

Ain’t just me. The much bigger problem is that I talk to kids and parents everyday, so I know I’m not alone in this.  In fact it’s so universal that most of us have just thrown up our hands as the new way the world works.  But there is something about it that has felt more serious for a while, so I’ve started to look at it more carefully and what I found was a much bigger deal then I thought.  In a world where it seems like there is a crisis a day, it seems almost foolish to raise up a hand and try and point to a place where you think you see the damn starting to crack.  But I don’t raise my hand like this often, and I’m raising it here…raising the hand, waving the red flag, pulling the fire alarm.  I don’t even want to list the level of damage/danger here, because I don’t want to get written off as hysterical or overreacting…so I’m just going to ask that you trust me enough to read all the way through this over-sized tome, and if you end up feeling like I do, come and help me figure out what to do about it.

I’m a dad, and I spend a huge amount of time trying to get my kids to spend less time on their cell phones, and we get into a ton of fights about it.    “You don’t understand.  Your generation doesn’t get it.  I am being social, just with my friends on the phone and not with you.” etc, etc, The very process of trying to get my kids off the phone so we can have better time together generates fights that leave everyone mad in their corners, not being social at all.  (Does this sound familiar to any of you?)  As parents, its pretty obvious to see the difference in how our kids feel and behave when they are not on the phones so much, but trying to do something about it is way harder then it should be.  Besides, everybody is going through it so maybe it’s not really a thing, just us having to adjust to a different way of being in the world.  Or maybe there is something very serious going on and we in the middle of it so much that it’s hard to see what’s going on.

Hi, I’m Ben and I’m… I’m going to make two statements, one about me and one that is so outrageous that I’m either an utter fool, or it’s a very big and very real deal.

  1. I’ve been having real problems controlling myself with my phone too.  I’ve been trying not to says addiction, but if it looks like a duck and clicks like a duck…its probably an addicted duck. 
  2. In 10-20 years people will look back on this time as an actual health crisis, the way that we look back on the cigarette industry.
Digital Nicotine. So I’ll say that second part again, and try and explain what I mean.  When we look back in 10-20 years at this time, people are going to be looking back on this time the same way that we look back on the health crisis caused by smoking.  It’s almost impossible now to imagine there was a time when people didn’t recognize either the addictive power of cigarettes, or realize how much suffering/ death it was causing. And to imagine that there were people in that industry, who once they understood both the addictive nature of what they were doing and what it was doing to people, spend huge amounts of money, hiring the best people they could, to discredit the scientists, to increase the addictive properties of what they were selling and to focus the most sophisticated techniques possible to not only get people to smoke more, but to get to teens and pre-teens and get them to try smoking, knowing that once they did, they would likely have customers for their (admittedly shorter) lives.  (Smoker’s average lifespan is 10 years shorter then then those who never smoked.

We should have known better hall of fame: There have been a number of times in the past where we did mindbogglingly stupid stuff without realizing the effects.  It’s almost unimaginable that back in the 50’s people had no idea that smoking was actually bad for you.  There were dancing cigarette packs in the commercials of TV shows, and ads talking about the health benefits of one brand over another. Not to mention the X-ray shoe store boxes:  You know how when you get an x-ray, they drape your body with lead covering and step out of the room while they flash the x-ray for the shortest imaginable time, because they know that long exposure to x-rays has a high likelihood of caucusing cancer.
There was a period where you could go into a shoe store and put your foot in a machine.  To put that in context, the a dental x-ray would expose you to 0.005 mSv of radiation, 20 seconds in the foot box would expose you to ~48 mSv.  Oh, and did I mention the day my high school physic teacher brought in a nice blob of Mercury in a film canister for us to pass around and play with to show us metal that was in a liquid state at room temperature.  But hey, we didn’t know better and with the exception of the cigarette, when we figured out it was bad for us, we stopped.  
The cigarettes were a different story, for two reasons.  
  1. They were chemically addictive.
  2. There was enough money to be made that there was a whole industry dependent on, well people being dependent.   

I’m not addicted…what is addicted anyway? There are a lot of definitions for addictive, but the best one that I know if is something that you do, that you know is bad for you, can see the bad results, part of you is aware of it and knows you shouldn’t do it, and you do it anyway.  You can feel two voices warring inside of you, one that knows better, and the other that will use any tool at its disposal to have you not think about any negative consequences, and will rebel against anyone who might get in the way of doing it.  There’s a whole brain chemistry thing with the parts of the brain that are set up to reward us for doing things that are good for us, getting hijacked by things that provide the same sensations but without the benefits.

So how does this have anything to do with cellphones, or more specifically smartphones?  I’m going to do more writings about this in the year to come, but it turns out that when you hire a lot of the smartest people in the world to try and get people to spend as much time as possible with your apps, to basically figure out how their brains work and try and stimulate the parts of the brain that will get them to do something over and over again, that you are creating addictions.  That’s not quite digital nicotine yet, because what’s the harm being done?  It’s just people spending some of their free time on their phones…what the big deal?

Image result for addicted to cell phone

Getting Mad. Here’s where I start to go from nice guy, kindly store owner Ben, to quietly furious and determined to do everything I can to do something about this Ben. 
Here are a number of the affects that the wrong kind of/too much time on the smart phones has been having. ( Everything on this list makes sense from observation and has credible studies behind them.) One note before reading this list.  I think it’s really important for each of us to be able to be honest in our own observations in how we are being affected.  Really smart people have been working very hard to get us addicted to these devices, and it’s going to take a huge amount of effort and willpower to break that.  I don’t know what all the steps are, but the first is being strong enough to really look at what is going on with ourselves.   I will be adding more links/references to this list as time goes on.   
All the list contributes to and pales in comparison to the last item.
  1. Health5 Serious Side Effects of Using Smartphones Discover the dangerous consequences of your cell phone habitImage result for effects of cell phone addiction
    1. Sleep disruption
    2. Back and neck problems
    3. Hand/Finger problems
  2. Safety
    1. Distraction while driving is massively increasing…killing about 1/3 as many people as drunk driving.
  3. BI Graphics_Bluelight effectsCognition-changing the way our brain functions
    1. Significant reduction in ability to maintain attention and focus.
    2. Memory drops-Brain shifts to not store things that the phone has stored/access to
    3. Notifications cause shockingly high drops in productivity
    4. Neurological changes based on different stimulus creates same neurochemical addiction as most drugs. 
  4.  Homework/productivity
    1. Even just having the phone next to you—with the notifications off, reduces capacity to think/focus.
    2. Notifications lead to significant drop in focus/productivity
    3. “multi-tasking” consuming other media while working reduces how effectively you think.
  5. SocialImage result for effects of cell phone addiction
    1. Smart phone use is decreasing face to face time and skills, connected to depression and sense of isolation
    2. People withhold connection/trust from other people who are engaged with phones, even if they are just on the table
    3. Issues around smart phone use are causing stress and barriers between parents and children
  6. Depression and Suicide
  7. Smartphones becoming common among teens is the only significant/attributable change leading to a 25-30% increase in teen unhappiness, depression and Suicide that has been growing side by side with smart phone use from 2010 till the present.

 

And the last one is what has pushed me over the edge.  I can’t step back and do nothing anymore.  But I also know that there have been thousands of people who are extremely smart, who have gone through great efforts to make this problem much harder 

then just triumph of the will.  So I’m going to do my best trick in terms of solving hard problems…gonna get as many other brains (and hearts) as I can working on this.  And that includes the kids too… So look for more, comment, share and show up.  It’s too important not to.

*Of course I wanted you to read this.  See, I’m smart and a little manipulative too. (When you get addicted to something, one of the effects is a splitting of the voices inside you.  There is the voice that can see what is going on and wants control back.  And there is the voice that feels it needs that endorphin rush that comes from the behaviors, that will do everything your smart mind can think of to deflect anything that might give the first voice a chance to take control back. )

 

D20 Games-Intro to D&D for Parents (and others)

By Ben Calica

This guide is designed as a simple, English translation for parents, significant others, and just those who felt curious as to what the heck D&D is all about.  We run D&D Encounters at D20 Games these days, and I’m old enough to have played the game with the first white books back in the mid 70s.  I’m also a dad of tween twin boys and a daughter who’s three years younger, so I can do the kid to parent translation pretty well. 😉

What is D&D?  Dungeons & Dragons is the game the popularized role playing.  Created in the mid-70’s,D&D was unique in casting one of the players in the role of the Dungeon Master.  A person who both kept the secrets of the world that the other players were trying to discover, and acted as a living interpreter of the rules, allowing players to try all sorts of creative solutions to problems they encounter, and not be limited by only what the original game creators set down on paper.  This was quite literally a game-changer, in that it really allowed people to use their imaginations to inhabit characters that they created and moved through the world.  It works best when the players access the freedom of their 8-12 year old selves and create characters that are ones they would have chosen to play on a playground.  (BTW…those of us who were around for the first round of this remember the media frenzy over kids in the sewers doing horrible things.  That was more made up then the game.  The truth was it was a bunch of us utterly harmless little nerd boys and girls being imaginative in the basement of our parents houses.)

D20

D20s-The rolls at the heart of role playing.  The D20 that is the name of our store refers to 20-sided dice, and are the key to most role playing games.  As much control as the Dungeon Master needs to have over the world that he/she is slowly unveiling, if they end up as the autocrat that just tells a story without any possibility of success or failure outside of what is ordained by them, the game becomes either stale or feels unfair.  Instead, based on a characters developing abilities  the Dungeon Master either consults pre-created tables of possibilities for certain types of actions (attacking with a sword, jumping out of the way of a dragon’s fire breath, getting a good nights sleep without being discovered by some roving band of creepy creatures), or makes their best guess for some creative idea a player has, and assigns a number that they must beat for that to succeed.  “I want to use my special agility to do a back-flip over my friends head to the back of the group.”  “Ok…you need to roll an 18 to make that happen.  Since you have extra agility bonus..you get to add 4 to whatever you roll.  Roll a d20!”  It is the mix of imagination and estimated chance that is the heart of what makes role playing games ongoing fun, and a story that even the Dungeon Master doesn’t know how will play out.

D&D as avengers


18 again, the birth of a character.
  The other key part of what makes role playing games fun, is the birth and evolution of your character.  A few different methods can be used, from the genetic randomness of rolling dice to determine the basic DNA of your character.  Are they quick  smart, wise, strong charming, or tough, or some combo of the above.  The first method involved rolling three six sided dice for each attribute, and then figuring out based on what you got what that character would be.

For example right now I’ll roll out one to show you.ac-muppets

Well…obviously this guy is going to be hiding in the back of the group, not swinging anything bigger then a stick.  But…with those Wisdom and Intelligence scores, looks like we might have a wizard or kind of skinny healer.
Using the more popular method of rolling 4 6-sided dice and throwing out the lowest one, we get a little better result.

This guy (or gal), could end up as a thief, or bard, or ranger, whose dexterity will make a bow sing in their hands.  How the characters start out is only the birth, because as they go out in the world and experience interesting things, they gain, well, experience.  and that experience directly leads to them increasing their levels, and with each of those new levels, their skills, toughness and abilities increase, so that the monsters that almost destroyed them in that first week of play, go running from them a few sessions later.  The greater the risks, the greater the rewards in terms of experience points AND goodies that they find along the way.  But those risks are very real (in the world of the game), in that if the hit points of your character (A number created based on your level, constitution, and what profession your character chooses), gets knocked down in battle to 0, then your character, well, dies.  Most often in the early levels, your playing buddies (your group), will drag you back to town, and find a sufficiently powerful healer to bring you back.  But that gets increasingly expensive both in terms of gold you’ve been able to collect, and eventually costing you some of those experience points you’ve been working so hard to gather.  Plus that fact that during the rest of that particular adventure, when the DM asks each character what they want to do next, the answer from you is “lying in the corner…still dead.”

DnD_Character_SheetThe DM–The guy that gets to have fun by not playing the whole time:  The Dungeon Master, or DM, has a very important and sometimes tricky role.  It is their  job to have either created or familiarized themselves with the world and adventure that the players are going to encounter.  They need to keep things moving at a good pace so people keep having fun in the world, and they have to strike a very careful balance between making the world so easy to defeat that there is no sense of real risk or drama, and making it so tough that the players feel like they are spending half their time trudging back to town to get resurrected   They need to make puzzles that are solvable, but hard enough to be challenging, and they need to be open to the players creativity taking the story in a direction they didn’t anticipate. Common mistakes are to become the great and powerful OZ, manipulating the players into doing things they really don’t want to do, or being seen as vindictive and mean..being the enemy of the players, as opposed to their guide to a world they have never encountered.   The best DM’s enjoy the story being told and it’s telling, and are open to knowing that the player’s creativity is a huge part of what makes that story fun for everybody, including them.

Pathfinder_RPG_Core_Rulebook_coverD&D vs. Pathfinder.  Both of these games were born from the original D&D.  While many people were kind of mad about D&D 4.0 (kind of an attempt to turn D&D into World of Warcraft) they redeemed themselves with 5th edition. It honors the best part of role playing games, the, well, role playing. Pathfinder is a game made by a different company that was founded by a number of people who used to work on D&D an has stayed very much in the spirit of the original D&D.  The reality is that both of these are brothers in spirit, and you can’t really go wrong with either.  There are also a host of other genres of role-playing that have been born from the same basic ideas and that speak to the different 8-12 year-olds in each of us.

Special notes from one parent to another:  First off…most any game that gets people face to face instead of screen to screen is a good thing.  Second, the game is jam packed with creative problem solving and social skills building opportunities.  The books are expensive (in the $30-40 range) and they will read them to the point of seeming obsession, but what is happening is that they are using the possibilities in the books to load themselves up with tools to solve problems when they play as well as doing creative thinking in their heads about what they could become.  The games can go from a couple of hours a time, to 2 in the morning when they get older.  It is the, “let’s just see what is behind that next door” that create that.    Obviously, the timing issues are different based on the age of the kid.

It takes a lot to get a group of kids together on a regular basis to play, and once a game is going and gets healthy it is worth encouraging.  Despite whatever “Revenge of the nerds” preconceptions there are about people who play, the reality is that the people who are drawn to the game do tend to be disproportionately bright, mostly because they don’t like the constraints that standard games place on their creativity.  The groups also tend to provide good social support.  The characters they create have different specific  ethical rules, and it is important for the player to stay true to those rules, making for a great chance to explore and understand those. For the kids who are bright but have social skills challenges, the role playing stuff is wonderful, both because it provides some set of written rules for social interactions, and because usually the DM provides a level of moderation for social issues that come up that makes the sessions mini-social skills groups wrapped in a big spoonful of sugar.

The Secret Life of Adults (and other kids)-The “right thing” if someone dies

[This article is part of a series where we reveal stuff that adults or kids don’t usually admit to each other.  Mostly it’s me fessing up to my secret thoughts or stuff I’ve done that maybe I shouldn’t have.]

One of the people at the store just lost their Dad, and my heart is kinda breaking for them as I write this.  I’m (like everyone else around him and his family) trying to figure out what the “right” thing is to say. And I want let him know that there are tons of ways that are normal to react to this, that there is no “right” way for him to feel, that whatever he’s feeling, it really is ok.  The truth is that everybody has a hard time figuring this out.

It feels like you should know the right thing to say or do when you find out about a loss that is just to big too imagine. If is a friend or someone we love, we tend fall back on “I’m so sorry for your loss” and “Is there anything I can do”.  And if it is you, you accept those words in a blur, unable to believe that the rest of the world is still going on as usual when everything has just completely changed.  Trying to figure out the right thing to do or feel makes a really tough time, much tougher.

If you are going through this, and this is intended for our friend, this stuff comes at you as it comes, and it’s all ok. All the cliche stuff has some basis in truth, but the order of what you are going through, and when or if you go through it is different for each person.

  • For some people, it hits them like a hammer to the gut right away.
  • For others, they feel bad that they don’t feel “enough” at the beginning.
  • Some people reach out to their friends and loved ones for support, others don’t want to talk about it.
  • Some take great comfort from the people who reach out, others snap back at them, because how can they understand?
  • Some put on a brave face to show that they are ok, and that no one needs to worry about them.
  • Some focus all their attention of taking care of the others in their family who are hurt.
  • Some just put all the feelings away to deal with later
  • Some just cry until they can’t cry anymore
  • Some write or draw or do anything else they can to either process or distract themselves
  • And a thousand other things…

Win with Grace, Lose with Style, Play for fun…The rules of the store and The Elections… (Or, don’t listen to them, listen to me…)

Win with Grace, Lose with Style, Play for fun…The rules of the store and The Elections… (Or, don’t listen to them, listen to me…)

I can’t believe I need to write this, but clearly I do.  The election is about to happen, and regardless of the outcome, it’s important to know that not only have the people running acted in ways that we shouldn’t emulate, that honestly, if they’d been in the store, we would have had a little private chat about the rules.
pic-of-d20-store-rules(I actually work hard to keep politics out of the store….there are certain issues, particularly those with deeply held personal beliefs, that once you start engaging in, it becomes hard to see someone who disagrees with you as anything beyond someone who is “other”, and this is a place for treating each other with respect so we can have (gasp) fun with each other.  I’m not going to change that policy now.  I have my own preferences, but I won’t push them on anybody.)
    • No Bad Language:   This rule extends beyond just swearing, but to smack talk in general.  Basically anything that is aimed at the purpose of making someone else feel uncomfortable, unwelcome or to attack their self-worth or self-confidence is just not ok. It doesn’t do anything besides make the other person like you less and poisons the ability to talk with each other and have fun.  Sure we compete and do our best to win, but none of that requires or is benefited by being mean.
Given that, I do feel like I need to say something about one aspect of all of this.  The idea of  elections is to choose people, in the case of the legislators (the law makers) who will act on our behalf to make the laws that will allow us to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And in the case of the president, that person is the citizen that we choose to act on our behalf in making sure those laws are enforced, in being our face to the world, to act when disasters happen, and to protect us and those we feel need protecting on our behalf.  They are both part of the check and balance of power on each other, come up with by our founding fathers who saw just what went wrong when all the power was in the hands of one person with the kings that ignored the will of the people, or with the will of the people when the passions of a moment turned them from people to the mob, as happened in France, who’s persecuted turned to persecutors, filling baskets with the remnants of their vengeance.
    • No Roughhousing or unwanted physical contact:  Not a place for grabbing, hitting or physically hurting other people.  (And no, if another player says that they will pay to get you out of trouble if you go and hurt someone that is annoying them, you’ll both get kicked out.)  Hurting someone, or encouraging someone else to hurt someone is utterly unacceptable.
The law makers are supposed to be our avatars….working together on our behalf, and the President should be the best of us, the person who we most trust to do the right thing when the clock is ticking and to lead and inspire us.
    • Good sportsmanship:  If you win or you lose, reach across the table, shake hands and say good game.  Those who do will have fun every-time, not just when they win, and get a chance to learn and get better.  Nobody wants to play or even be around someone who comes up with excuses why they didn’t win, particularly before the match even begins.
There has been behavior that has happened, over and over again in this campaign that, far from inspiring us and giving us things to aspire to, is so bad that if it happened in the store, I’d have to pull someone aside and have a quiet talk about treating each other with respect and trying to work things out.    For my young players, who’ve done so well at bringing out the best in each other, at turning away from teasing, name-calling and bad sportsmanship, know that for many of us adults, we are also looking in disbelief at presidential candidates who act with the language of frustrated little kids.
In terms of our Senators and Congresspeople, if we just wanted to have you vote on party lines, not actually talk with each other about the merits of each law, we can do that.   You guys can sit on the side, writing petitions, and we’ll vote from home.  Or we can just send one of those pecking water bird toys that hits the same button over and over again.
There are a lot of things wrong with the system at this point. Hidden money making it so our representatives need to give access to those with bigger pockets, often over doing the right thing for those of us who elected them. Legislators living in such fear of being singled out and attacked by their own parties, that the idea of reaching out to the other side and talking things through puts them at real risk.  Would any of us act that way?  Do we want those who are acting for us doing that?  (Here is an amazing video about what has happened over the last 50+ years in congress)
https://youtu.be/tEczkhfLwqM
But what we have to do is remember that the system was set up by some pretty smart people, (people like us), who tried to figure out the best way to do things and to set up systems of checks and balances that would keep things stable while they were working, but allow for changes (amendments) if something was clearly not working the way that they intended.  If you get frustrated, remember that, and then work to understand why and make things better.
And one final thing.  Every one of you that comes to the store on a regular basis, behaves better then what we are seeing in front of us.  So if that little voice inside says, “this isn’t a good person to try and be like”, pay attention to it.  You’ve been part of creating a good an welcoming place at D20, so as far as I’m concerned. you are doing good so far.
Ben
P.S. For those of you who are voting, I won’t suggest who you vote for, but would ask one thing:  None of this is as simplistic as it is portrayed.  Don’t get stubborn in either direction because of what someone else tries to tell you to do.  Take the time to really look at the candidates and decide who you want to represent and act for you for the next 4 years once all the ads are done and it is just working at the highest pressure, most intense job in the country, and who you would least like to see in that role.  We’ve seen from previous elections that they are not all the same and who is there has real and lasting consequences for all of us. And go and vote….

  

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